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My biff with shopping in China

[ 12 ] May 1, 2010 |

Cheap clothes, really cheap clothes, I must have been dreaming.  That was until I was rudely awoken by the shop assistant telling me I could not try on that really cute dress.  “Small” she said pointing at it then pointing at me and shaking her head.  I looked down at my waist gesture the size, pointed at the dress and the tag that claimed it was a ‘L’ again she shook her head.  What was she saying!?   

She took 2 of the 5 things I had to try on off the coat hanger shoved them in my hand then pushed me towards the change room.  I came out wearing what turned out to be a much more hideous top than it had looked hanging limply on the coat hanger.  “Beautiful” the girl said.  I shook my head, no not beautiful! Others I said questioningly and then mimed what was suppose to be a dress she shook her head.  She pointed to me and said “big” then pointed back at the rack where I got them from and said “small”.  OK I got the message loud and clear me a small girl by Australian standards needed to stop eating so much rice and get exercising!

Above: http://www.flickr.com/photos/triciawang/82759468/

This wasn’t the first time I had come across the ‘whole your too big just give up’ situation.  Previously I had gone shopping with a Chinese friend, which was great to get the prices down not so good for my self-confidence.  She enthusiastically would say “we go” and shop after shop we would go in and shop after shop the shop assistance would pull up the back of my top take a long inquisitive look at my rear end, rummage through a pile of shorts then shake there head.  No they didn’t have pants that would fit a round western derriere!  My friend said to me rather chirpily as we moved on to the next store “I feel you are a little bit fat”.  The way she said it was so casual as if she had just told me “it’s nice and sunny today!” As if my self-confidence hadn’t already dropped through the floor, leaving a massive hole now I was “a little bit fat!”.

I wasn’t going to let these not so great shopping experience prevent me form enjoying my favourite past time.  Surely there were Chinese girls my size and surely they had to buy clothes too. I hatched a brilliant plan, followed the Chinese girls that looked more like me and maybe I would find a shop that stocked my size.  Needless to say the only ones I could see on the whole Shou Ma Lu shopping strip were either tiny or just old and I certainly wasn’t either!

I gave up and headed back home.  When I say gave up of course I don’t mean give up shopping because luckily for me on the way home many people decided that the sidewalk would be a good place to set up shop.  For hundreds of meters I was in clothes lying on tarpaulin heaven! Here at least they weren’t going to turn me away form the change rooms, there were none!  Several minutes later, money spent and two dresses in hand I was finally satisfied. 

I hadn’t got what I’d come for but I’d left happy and having made some new friends from the highschool.  Students keen to help me bargain in exchange for practicing there English, pretty easy deal for me!

Despite the Chinese clothes shopping experience constantly trying to shatter my western self-confidence there is one thing I always remind myself. My feet may be too big, I may be too large but there’s a friendly shop assistant in Beijing who wishes her bottom was as round and foreign as mine!!!

P.S. For those of you confused by my Aussie colloquialism a biff  means brawl

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Category: Expat Stories

About onurwaytravel: Colin has been travelling the world with his young family for the past 2 and half years. He runs a couple of websites all revolve around travel, family travel and digital nomadism. His websites include http://ourtravellifestyle.com, http://vagabondfamily.org, http://nunomad.com and now http://on-our-way-travel.com. View author profile.

Comments (12)

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  1. TUCKY says:

    i loved shopping in china, as soon as i stepped inside a store to cute chinese girls would follow me around the store and giggle as soon as i spoke to them

  2. Sasha says:

    Haha you would of loved that!!! They’re like shadows the shop assistants always half a step behind! lol

  3. SpunkyGirl says:

    Shopping in China is always an adventure. I don’t shop for cloths, as none of them will ever fit me. But I remember what it was like to buy shoes for my size 9 feet!
    .-= SpunkyGirl´s last blog ..It’s not easy being green… |101 Greener Home Tips =-.

  4. Sally says:

    Oh man, I feel your pain! I could hardly ever buy any clothes in Japan, and if I did they always ended up being size “double large” (and I’m a respectable size medium in the States! Arrgh!). What I could never figure out was where the Japanese women who were my size bigger (and there were plenty!) went shopping. I was often tempted to go up to them and ask them where they got their pants. Ha!
    Good luck!

  5. Sue Mcshane says:

    I have one word for you Sasha, ‘tailor’!
    They will happily make your shorts to fit your
    little bit fat western derriere for the price of a
    coffee. Shopping dilemma solved!!

  6. Sasha says:

    What a good idea Sue, dunno why I didn’t think of that before!!! There must be a tailor somewhere near me especially considering I’m living in China’s textile capital!!!! :)

  7. Stephanie
    Twitter:
    says:

    I think by biff you mean beef (At least that’s how we americans would say it). And I totally agree- this is basically why I’ve completely avoided shopping whatsoever except in Hong Kong. I did buy one sweatshirt but it’s a men’s large- fits perfect!

  8. Sasha says:

    Yes biff is the Aussie way of saying beef, we try and keep the word beef strictly for conversations about BBQs! lol…You should watch this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuMukG3sMH4 a great Aussie song about “Bringing back the Biff” hilarious!!!

  9. Myra
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks, great post! I did have a question about “biff”… Beef means the same as was mentioned before. :)
    .-= Myra ´s last blog ..Zap That Culture Shock! Basics =-.

  10. Steve says:

    Not sure about other parts of China, but in Beijing there are some very unattractive, but very well stocked ‘clothes wholesalers’ on the outskirts of town where it’s possible to find all the sizes of clothes and shoes, even for me at 6’3″

    Alternatively, a tailor will copy (and fit perfectly) any design for less than the price of a high-street version back home.
    .-= Steve´s last blog ..Looking back through the travel archives #My7Links =-.

  11. Sasha says:

    Great tips Steve, now (I guess from a Chinese diet) I don’t have much trouble finding clothes at all, though I still wonder where it is the larger Chinese girls buy there clothes!

  12. Sasha says:

    Haha yeah I injected a bit of Aussie slang into this post that could be a little confusing for non-Aussies!

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